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Upfronts 2016: Fewer Ads Means Better Content, Better Engagement, Says Turner

While upfront week is all about booking as much advertising as possible, Turner’s execs talked up a less cluttered ad environment across its myriad networks as a way for a marketer to stand out and urged the media buyers assembled at its upfront presentation to get on board.

Fewer ads means more room for storytelling, which attracts better talent, went the reasoning, and a higher class of content and higher degree of engagement.

“We need the ad community to support these moves,” said Donna Speciale, ad sales president at Turner.

Related: Upfronts 2016: Turner Highlights New Distribution, 1,000 Original Programming Hours

Held at The Theater at Madison Square Garden, the Turner upfront show ran around an hour and 45 minutes and kicked off with some repartee between Anderson Cooper, Conan O’Brien and Charles Barkley. The presentation included TBS, TNT, CNN, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, truTV, Boomerang, HLN and Turner Sports, with appearances from Full Frontal host Samantha Bee, CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer, Billy on the Street host Billy Eichner and Parts Unknown host Anthony Bourdain.

Turner announced Team Coco Digital Studio, with original digital content created by the O’Brien camp.

Kevin Reilly, president of TBS and TNT, spoke about TBS’ “unapologetic” comedies, such as Full Frontal and The Detour. Reilly said the network would increase the number of shows debuting two seasons in the same calendar year, such as Angie Tribeca, as it “continues to screw around with the traditional television model.”

Bee mentioned the good fortune of launching a topical talker in a crazy election year, calling it a “f***ing gift from heaven, so thank you Jesus or Satan. Whoever is responsible for this please enjoy my eternal soul.”

New comedies include the offbeat People of Earth and even more offbeat Search Party.

Reilly also made a plug for televised video gaming, with TBS’ new ELeague property, before turning to TNT’s dramas, and talking up the virtues of 10 more minutes per hour of show. The Alienist, Tales From the Crypt and young Shakespeare drama Will are among the new series.

Adult Swim orders include live action series Million Dollar Extreme Presents: World Peace.

Representing CNN, Cooper too acknowledged the nutty election season. “With all respect to our friends at TNT, there’s more drama on CNN than anywhere else this year,” he said.

Eichner took the stage to address rumors that television is dead. “Television is not dead,” the comedian insisted. “It has about three years to live.”

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.